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With increasing demand for IT flexibility – from users wanting to access IT on any device, anywhere, any time; and organisations wanting to consolidate for efficiency – online, cloud-based services are the way to go.
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For consumers and employees alike it means a shift from long-established and well supported but often cumbersome ways of doing things, to an online, instant access and increasingly self-service model.
Next is managed service. This is less costly, and may be outsourced to an external provider, Beyond a managed service is self-service where employees take on most of the effort. Then there is self-reliance. This is when support shifts from proactive to reactive;
The final stage is employee-driven, which is service optimised by users to suit their needs.
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A path though employee self-service
Some aspects of employee life lend themselves more readily to self-service, especially when the extra effort required of the employee is low compared with the perceived value, and the benefits to the organisation are immediately noticeable. The routine and regular processes for dealing with simple updates and viewing key private information, such as payroll, without going through a human connection in HR or accounts, is a common and effective place to start.
Customer relationship management
Beyond the internal administrative burden, the main shared-need for most employees is information to support their relationship with customers. This is no longer something only applicable to discrete teams of sales or customer service individuals, now the responsibility for maintaining customer relationships affects all employees. Companies such as Sage, ServiceNow and Salesforce offer the benefits of their applications right across any large customer-facing organisation via self-service access, and Salesforce.com in particular – either through its own functionality or with partner applications on the Salesforce1 platform – extends this into a huge range of enterprise applications.
Benefits, challenges and good practice
Deploying systems so that employees can look after themselves has many benefits for the organisation, in shifting the impact of administration back to the individuals concerned and having them check the details of data that affects them. But the benefits of such systems extend beyond just improving efficiency and accuracy for the organisation.
- Where possible, seek out and talk to others who have been through the process. There are plenty of well-established suppliers, so talk to their customers.
- Get employee buy-in from the outset. If they’re being expected to pick up some of the task burden, even to gain more control, they need to understand why, and how it will benefit them.
- Train for a thorough understanding of the entire system, not just the particular application. Most of the systems are well designed for ease of use, but how they are implemented and fit with different businesses’ processes varies. Make sure employees understand how the whole process works.
- Invest in systems that will allow for wider integration, not point products. Even if starting with one element of employee self-service, most companies will need to have a strategy of doing much more. Ensure all elements can be integrated together into a single employee portal of all services, rather than requiring separate access.
- Do not think “web” or “mobile”, think “omni-channel”. Many self-service tasks will not be completed in a single session and each stage could be in a different location and on a different device. Make it easier for employees by choosing systems that allow them to switch devices to whatever is most appropriate for them at any given stage.
- Consider the overlap between customer experience management and employees. Many self-service options blur the line between employee and customer with good reason; the edges of the organisation are porous, but also employees and customers alike expect consumer-like levels of access and ease of use - the experience matters.